Bart—k Beethoven, Schubert & Haydn

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bartók Beethoven,Schubert & Haydn
LABELS: Decca (for both)
ALBUM TITLE: Bartók, Takács Quartet
WORKS: String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 3; String Quartet No. 6
PERFORMER: Takács Quartet (for both)
CATALOGUE NO: 074 3141; 074 3140
PRESENTATION: *****

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These two sublime DVDs give us the

privilege of watching and hearing,

or it seems more like overhearing,

four great collaborating musicians

recreating six of the most magnificent

immediacy one moment, deep

intimacy the next, staring mirrorclose

into Barstow’s deeply expressive

features, or echoing a frequent stage

image showing Elizabeth caged by

her role, as when her dressing-room

walls turn translucent to betray the

court ladies gossiping.

The fine ensemble cast survives

such potentially cruel exposure

through sheer involvement, notably

Tom Randle, an ideally virile

Essex. Also outstanding are

Susanna Glanville’s Lady Rich, Eric

Roberts’ Cecil and Clive Bayley’s

sprightly Raleigh. Daniel conducts

a vividly theatrical performance

that banishes any hint of fustian or

pastiche pageantry about this score.

PERFORMANCE ?????

PRESENTATION ?????

? BBC Music Direct £17.99 inc. p&p

works written for string quartet. The

performances, not given before an

audience, were filmed in 1998 in two

beautiful Scottish country houses.

The players talk separately about each

work before they play it, in a relaxed

and mainly informative way, showing

how intense their collaboration is.

Two of the four players are British,

the other two Hungarians from the

original Takács Quartet. Their degree

of integration is quite remarkable,

as is the old-fashioned warmth and

freedom of their playing. I find it

hard to imagine a finer account of

any of the ‘classical’ works on the

Takács Quartet DVD, though it could

be argued that their approach is one

of almost uniform intensity. That

quality is certainly what is needed

in Beethoven’s First Razumovsky

Quartet, and in Schubert’s Death and

the Maiden, but it’s not so clear that

Haydn’s The Bird requires this degree

of fervour. But they do bring out,

without making a meal of it, Haydn’s

startling features, such as the wholly

weird second movement.

I doubt if the Takács have ever had

any superiors in interpreting Bartók’s

quartets, and it’s to be hoped that

another DVD completes the series.

They play the programmed works in

the order 3, 2 and 6, presumably with

good reason though I couldn’t think

what it was; difficult as I find these

works, it is to this DVD that I shall

return for deepened understanding.

By watching, one sees which phrases

answer which, which break up a

conversation, how the players feel

about what they are performing.

With wonderful photography and

an extremely clear image, these are

among the most rewarding DVDs I

have ever seen, and among my highest

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musical experiences. Michael Tanner